`The Godfather' it's a guy thing In "You've Got Mail," when Kelly asks Fox what is it with men and "The Godfather," he informs her that it's the movie equivalent of I Ching -- the epitome of wisdom.

January 01, 1999|By Susan King and LOS ANGELES TIMES

HOLLYWOOD -- In the 1972 film "Play It Again, Sam," Woody Allen's nebbish hero was so obsessed with Humphrey Bogart in "Casablanca" that he enlisted the ghost of the legendary '40s tough guy to coach him on how to impress girls.

"Casablanca" and Bogey may have been the role models for Allen's generation, but as director Nora Ephron cleverly illustrates in her latest film, "You've Got Mail," which stars Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, it's Francis Ford Coppola's Oscar-winning 1972 classic "The Godfather" that's become the ultimate guy's movie.

Ephron also used a popular movie in 1993's "Sleepless in Seattle" to point out the differences between men and women's tastes. In "Sleepless," women blubber over the 1957 Cary Grant-Deborah Kerr weepy, "An Affair to Remember." Just as the men are clueless about the appeal of that chick flick, Ryan's perky bookstore owner in "You've Got Mail" is in the dark about "The Godfather."

In "You've Got Mail," Hanks plays Joe Fox, owner of a corporate book chain who is opening a huge new store in New York's Upper West Side. Ryan's Kathleen Kelly owns a small children's bookstore threatened by the opening of Fox Books. However, neither knows that they are e-mail pen pals.

When Kelly discovers Fox's identity after having met him in her store, she tells him she wouldn't have talked to him: "I didn't know who you were with," she says. That, of course, reminds Fox of a line from "The Godfather." He tells her that is what movie producer John Woltz told Corleone "family attorney" Tom Hagen when Hagen arrived in Hollywood to persuade him to cast the Godfather's godson, Johnny Fontane.

Fox also gives godfatherly e-mail advice to Kelly to "go to the mattresses" to save her business from bankruptcy and go to war against her competitor. When Kelly asks Fox what is it with men and "The Godfather," he informs her that it's the movie equivalent of I Ching -- the epitome of wisdom. If anyone has a problem, the answer can be found in "The Godfather."

Ephron, who co-wrote the film with her sister Delia, is quite familiar with the world of mob movies. Her husband, writer Nicholas Pileggi, co-wrote the screenplays of Martin Scorsese's gangster flicks "GoodFellas" and "Casino." (Pileggi wrote the books on which the films are based.)

"You've Got Mail" isn't the only movie that has paid its respects to "The Godfather," as well as its two sequels, "The Godfather Part II" and "The Godfather Part III." The trilogy has been spoofed in such comedies as "Mafia!" Brando himself satirized his Oscar-winning performance in the 1990 comedy "The Freshman." And in the coming HBO mob series, "The Sopranos," the gangsters are continually referring to scenes and dialogue from "The Godfather."

More than 25 years after its release, "The Godfather" -- based on the novel by Mario Puzo -- remains a benchmark of honor and machismo in popular culture. The Corleone family -- save perhaps for poor Fredo -- lives by a code of honor and loyalty. Just like Bogart's tough, cynical Rick Blaine in "Casablanca," the men of "The Godfather" seem to have all the answers.

Family and morality play an important part in the film's lasting hold on our culture, according to Harlan Lebo in his book "The Godfather Legacy."

"Francis Ford Coppola has often said that the story of `The Godfather' is a `romance' about a king and his three sons," writes Lebo.

Here are some of the most famous lines from "The Godfather," "The Godfather Part II" and "The Godfather Part III."

"The Godfather"

"It's a Sicilian message. It means Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes."

-- Family enforcer Peter Clemenza explains to Sonny Corleone that Corleone soldier Brasi has been murdered.

"I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse."

-- Don Corleone to crooner and godson Johnny Fontane about getting Fontane a movie role with producer John Woltz.

"It's business, not personal."

-- Michael Corleone to girlfriend Kay, explaining the family business.

"Fredo, you're my older brother, and I love you. But don't ever take sides with anyone against the family. Ever."

-- Michael to older brother Fredo

"A man who doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man."

-- Don Corleone to Fontane

"Leave the gun. Take the cannoli."

-- Clemenza to Corleone driver Rocco Lampone after the two have disposed of the Don's traitorous bodyguard.

"Mr. Corleone is a man who insists on hearing bad news immediately."

-- Tom Hagen to Woltz after the producer refuses the Don's offer.

"The Godfather Part II"

"I knew it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart."

-- Michael to Fredo when he discovers his brother has betrayed him.

"Fredo, you're nothing to me now; not a brother; not a friend. I don't want to know you, or what you do."

-- Michael to Fredo

"But you can never lose your family. Never."

-- Mama Corleone to Michael

"The Godfather Part III"

"Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in."

-- Michael

Pub Date: 1/01/99

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